General Atomics touts advanced small reactor design in DOE effort

San Diego-based General Atomics (GA) said recently that its advanced nuclear technology is capable of producing 265 MW with a small modular reactor (SMR) “the size of a school bus.”

The General Atomics team includes Chicago Bridge & Iron (NYSE:CBI), the international infrastructure builder, as well as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). The General Atomics technology group is among those seeking to gain a cost-sharing grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for small reactor development.

DOE made its first such award in 2012, picking Babcock & Wilcox (NYSE:BWC) technology for the first commercial SMRs in the United States. The B&W SMRs would be located at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) site.

In addition to General Atomics, groups including NuScale and Westinghouse Electric are among the teams known to be competing for the second round of DOE SMR funding.

As for General Atomics, it has held discussions with the state of Mississippi about an SMR site to be identified later. GA already has business operations in the state.

General Atomics said its technology offers major advantages over current, utility-scale nuclear plants. These advances include:

•30 years without refueling versus 18 months for current light water reactors

•No water for cooling, allowing much greater siting flexibility

•A design that achieves both increased efficiency and small size – the 265-MW reactor reduces electricity costs by 40% relative to current reactors and produces 80% less waste

•Improved safety with a gas-cooled design, utilizing GA’s innovative high-performance silicon carbide cladding that resists melting at high temperatures

General Atomics said its small reactor technology can drive the cost of electricity down 40% from other forms of nuclear energy.

General Atomics’ patented Energy Multiplier Module or EM2 incorporates a truck-transportable high-speed gas turbine generator, a major innovation that avoids the huge size and complexity of steam-generated power plants, the company said in an Aug. 2 statement.

“We welcome the opportunity to join the Department of Energy in advancing the next generation of nuclear technology for reliable and cost-effective clean energy, for this century and beyond,” said John Parmentola, Ph.D., GA’s senior vice president of energy and advanced concepts and an MIT-trained physicist.

General Atomics has a 58-year history in the energy, defense and environmental sectors. GA was founded in 1955 as a division of General Dynamics. GA had an initial charter to explore peaceful uses of atomic energy.

The company might be most recognized these days for its work with unmanned aircraft systems, including Predator drones.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at